Courts have long-recognized the “personal comfort doctrine,” which means that if you are injured while on a personal comfort break—such as a smoke or bathroom break—even if you aren’t on your employer’s physical premises, you still may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. A recent Pennsylvania appeals court decision confirms that if you are at work and take a smoke break plus pick up a sandwich at the corner deli, you are still covered.
In the new recent case, an employee who was a custodian left to take a cigarette break and to pick up a sandwich at a nearby store. His employer allowed him to take limited breaks without requesting permission. While the employee was on this break, he slipped on his ice and hit his head. He was unable to return to work. Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ruled that the employee’s break was not a formal lunch break, but instead fell under the personal comfort doctrine. That meant the employee was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
The personal comfort doctrine, common to all workers’ compensation laws, holds that the employee whether on the premises or off, does not stray from the course of employment for a momentary departure from active work to attend to some ‘personal comfort’ such as using the restroom, fixing one’s hair, or changing contact lenses or make-up.
Our office regularly fights for injured workers to get them the wage loss and medical benefits they deserve—whether they are injured right at work, injured on a break offsite or an employee who travels from place to place (called a traveling employee). Please call our office at 610-446-3457 or click here to send an email to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will explain the process, guide you and fight to get the recovery you deserve.